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DoD Emphasizes "Preventive Defense," White Tells Students

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 3, 1996 – Deputy Secretary of Defense John P. White told Syracuse University students "preventive defense" eliminates the threat of war and saves defense dollars.

"There are new opportunities to prevent the threat of conflict by promoting stability, security and democracy around the world," White recently told public administration students at his alma mater. "Preventive defense requires a relatively small investment of defense dollars, but it requires a large investment [of] energy, time and innovation."

White said DoD must strengthen existing military-political alliances such as NATO, forge cooperative relations with former adversaries such as the ex-Soviet republics, and reach out to other newly independent nations. He noted Defense Secretary William Perry has visited 60 nations over the past two years to promote democratic military reforms and security relations with the United States.

"That's preventive defense in action," White said, "and it has paid off by enhancing [our] security all over the world."

As an example, the deputy secretary cited the "renewed and reinvigorated" alliance with Japan to deal with security issues in Asia and the Pacific. He said the importance of this alliance was driven home when China began military maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait. The aircraft carrier USS Independence and its battle group, based in Japan, was one of two carrier groups moved to the area to demonstrate U.S. interest and resolve. That kind of presence, he said, is critical to preventing an international crisis from developing into a full-blown conflict.

White also noted the close working relationships DoD has developed with Russia and other former Soviet states. The relationships, he said, have led to the destruction of 4,000 nuclear warheads and 700 strategic bombers and launchers. "We are literally turning missile fields into wheat fields and turning missile factories into commercial enterprises," he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops are holding joint peacekeeping exercises with Russian troops, the secretary noted, including one last fall in Kansas. Such exercises, he said, build U.S.-Russian security ties from the ground up and are paying dividends in Bosnia, where the countries' troops are jointly participating in the peace-building process.

Despite the added emphasis on preventive defense, White said the bulk of defense dollars must still be invested in maintaining a strong military force to deter aggression and defeat any adversary. Readiness, quality of life and modernization, he said, are the department's highest priorities.

"The challenge ... has been to ensure that we keep a robust capability, and to size and cost it correctly in an era of reduced threat," he said.

World changes have allowed DoD to reduce its force structure, White said. At 1.4 million men and women, the force is 33 percent smaller than at its peak in the 1980s. Yet in terms of combat capability, quality of people and military readiness, he said, the U.S. armed forces are second to none.

White said DoD will spend nearly $40 billion next year modernizing equipment and nearly $250 billion over the next five years. "We need to replace older equipment as it ages and wears out" to preserve a technological edge on the battlefield, he said, adding he's confident further large budget increases won't be necessary to meet U.S. security needs now and in the future.

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